(Bartlett, Illinois – November 4, 2011)
A 22-car freight train derailment, fire and disruption of commuter rail service and school transportation Thursday on former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern RR tracks now owned by Canadian National, has re-opened debate about what on-line communities feared two years ago when they fought against the acquisition.
Public inconvenience in the wake of the derailment continued through the weekend, and northwest suburban Chicago newspaper The Daily Herald researched the arguments which failed to sway the federal government in allowing the acquisition.
“A look at September numbers provided by CN showed train traffic on the EJ&E line between the Mundelein area and south of Naperville has increased by about 35 percent since the 2009 merger,” reported DH staff writer Marni Pyke in her investigative story in Friday’s Daily Herald.
The occurrence of Thursday’s accident was what community leaders sought to avoid in battling the CN’s purchase of EJ&E. Barrington, IL Mayor Karen Darch, who led the coalition of communities against the merger said the accident “underscores the need to make the (former) EJ&E as safe as possible, to reduce potential hazards and to reduce the chance for another freight accident.”
Meanwhile, Aurora, IL Mayor Tom Weisner echoed his colleague’s comments, saying the derailment Thursday made him uneasy.
“I wouldn’t say I have a great comfort level,” said Weisner. “We are certainly concerned about what the future will bring” he said after noting that CN rail traffic can be expected to do nothing but increase.
When the U.S. Surface Transportation Board approved the acquisition in 2009, it acknowledged that the transaction “would increase the risk of an accident involving the discharge of a hazardous material along the EJ&E line.” They then countered that “the agency noted the risk of spill was low and federal hazmat transport rules along with CN’s system of safeguards would be adequate to prevent a catastrophe.”